Seattle Times Proves It Is A Great Newspaper

One Seattle Times Front Pageof the best practices I’ve seen any newspaper undertake is reported in Al Tompkins’ Poynter Morning Meeting column.

To help prevent future carbon monoxide deaths in Seattle, after six had already occurred, The Seattle Times devoted their front page, above the fold, to prevention information. The paper “published a health and safety warning in six languages — across the entire top half of the front page.” At great expense, during their busiest advertising season, the paper went ahead with it even if the move might diminish news stand sales.

Some folks have started using grills and generators to keep warm. Six people have died and more than 100 have been hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Times executive editor David Boardman told (Tompkins) that while the page may be among the “ugliest we’ve ever published — it is one of which I’m most proud.”

Sadly, the paper has received some reader backlash. Despite the humanitarian effort to try and save lives, Times executive editor David Boardman reported the following:

I should add, however, that we have heard from several readers who are angry that we would publish in a language other than English. I just took a call from one reader who cancelled his subscription, saying that if these people can’t read English, tough.

That’s just sad.

Just thinking out loud here … You know, it would be nice to see newspapers do this kind of thing more often. In fact, I’d suggest going beyond efforts based upon currently breaking stories and do it for all manner of nonprofit organizations.

Once a month, or once a week if they are brave, newspapers might devote full sections of the front page (and continue it inside) to local nonprofit initiatives. And, the multiple languages approach should be followed, too. Even in little ‘ol Auburn, we have significant populations of Mexicans and Central Americans. Also, due to the university, we have large populations of students with (sadly) rather fleeting command of the English language.

I’m not necessarily suggesting the the full above the fold section be used, but certainly part of it. And, the multiple languages aspect could be carried to the Web site for the in depth reporting. An even bolder move would be to create podcasts in multiple languages for these types of emergency stories, too.  This is where a community consumer generated media tie-in might work.  Recruit local citizens to create the podcasts and use blogs to allow for the citizens to post, perhaps.

An aside: Tompkins’ also reported on an interesting idea for all those couples creating wedding registries. How about doing the philanthropic thing and creating a Charity Registry in addition to, or instead of, your usual wedding registry.

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